04 August 2003

Sometimes my head hurts enough dealing with US copyright law. Just wait until international law raises its pointy little head!

   Not so very long ago, Cuba decided that it wanted to reclaim the rights to music that two Cubans had composed, then sold to a Los Angeles-based music company. <SARCASM> No, Virginia, there was nothing political involved in this at all. </SARCASM> Cuba simply used its own legal system to "take" those rights back, then resold the rights that had been transferred to a German music publisher. When the German company tried exploit its new rights in England, the Los Angeles publisher objected.

   I had been waiting to see the appellate opinion in this matter; thanks to IPKat for keeping on top of it (much easier for those in the UK!). In a very unsurprising unanimous decision, the British court decided that the Los Angeles company had the superior claim. This is unsurprising. Even though Cuba was not a member of the Berne Convention, both Germany and the US (and, for that matter, the UK) were at all relevant times. Basically, one cannot fence stolen property this way. Although the British court was too polite to say it in so many words, that seems to be the judges' opinion of what actually happened: outright theft.

   This bears some food for thought for Sharman Networks (the operator/provider of KaZAA, one of the largest music filesharing systems). Even though Sharman Networks claims to be headquartered on a Pacific island that probably has more corporations than actual residents, and that island-nation is not a member of the Berne Convention, the British court's reasoning indicates what will probably happen to it eventually. And not a moment too soon, either; subversion is almost always more successful in the long run than is armed revolution, and is a critical component in those armed revolutions that have been successful.